The first meeting for Quaker Worship and fellowship held at the Maryland Correctional Institution of Hagerstown was held on January 1, 2005. Since that time the fellowship has remained under the spiritual guidance and commitment of many Friends from the Patapsco Friends Meeting (Care & Ministry Committee). In the ensuing years the meeting for Quaker worship would go on to be recognized as South Mountain Friends Fellowship here at the prison.
On March 3, 2012, in a joint celebration, members and attenders from South Mountain Friends Fellowship, and, Patapsco Friends Meeting, celebrated our Seventh Annual Gathering and Celebration at the prison. In attendance was 11 visitors from PFM, and, six prisoners held at the prison. Of the 11 visitors attending from PFM, seven were regularly attending Friends, accompanied by 4 Friends from Patapsco who were able to participate in this year’s gathering and celebration for the first time. The celebration included worship, singing with the accompaniment of a guitar, the introduction of Queries, small work discussion(s), Reflection and the sharing of light snacks and refreshments made possible by the prison administration. Also presented during the gathering was a correspondence from B.Y.M. recognizing SMFF and the light that shines behind these prison walls. And for the first time, pictures were taken during the gathering and celebration to serve as a lasting memory of this day amongst friends.
During the past year, South Mountain Friends Fellowship has undertaken a number of Quaker faith and worship activities intended to further advance the Quaker tradition of worship. One activity that has generated the most notable interest by the entire Fellowship is when the group follows the leading of Patapsco Friends Meeting by reading and reviewing the publications read at PFM. Quaker Strongholds, Patricia Dullman, Quaker Faith and Practice, and most recently, Creeds and Quakers (What’s Belief Got to do With it?) by: Robert Griswold.
Members and Attenders of South Mountain Friends Fellowship are able to receive Friends Journal on a monthly basis, made possible by the generosity of Patapsco Friends. Our appreciation is multiplied as we are aware of the cost factor involved, as this practice extends back a number of years. Friends Journal, March 2012, focused on Crime and Punishment. Content included such examples as, Cain: Reflections on Restorative Justice II Prison Visitation: Lifeline to the Outside World II Demythologizing a Ministry. Other articles of importance included, A Quaker Stand Against Mass Incarceration II and II Advocating for Children of Prisoners. The March 2012 was a genuinely good read for everyone and anyone interested in such a strong social concern for prisons in America and the Quakers who make a difference, (both past and present).
In the April 2012 issue of the Friends Journal was an open letter to the Editor by a Friend who has made a life changing impact on this writer’s life, and others who attended Quaker Meeting in Jessup, MD. Mr. Jack Fogarty’s letter covered a forty year span of prison ministry and advocacy from Sandy Spring Friends Meeting. However, as the only prison in the state of Maryland at the time that held meetings, attending Quaker meeting in that Jessup prison changed my life, and the lives of many others, some of whom remain imprisoned, most were eventually freed. Thank you Jack. And Thank you to the many others who traveled to the Jessup prison, twice a month, for forty years.
And Thank you to all of those Friends from Patapsco Meeting who travel hundreds of miles in order that prisoners attending South Mountain Friends Fellowship might see the light, know the light, and live in the light.
In conclusion, a story message as it appeared in the March 2012 issue of Friends Journal:
Going to see Gary
He says he’s come to terms
with it, finally accepts the full
impact of “life sentence with no possibility of parole”
after fighting it for 30 years. He says he’s okay with it
but I wonder.It’s raining today.
I drive home and hear
the wet hiss of the tires,
a sound I can make
but he cannot.
Nor a thousand other things.
Ken Gibble // Greencastle, PA. Friends Journal 3/12 P.13